Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams has spent most of the last week doing everything he can to ensure that his team’s slide out of playoff contention continues without a hitch. If his recent handling of the bullpen had Nats fans bashing their heads against walls, last night’s managerial performance should have them shambling into the nearest ocean or desert, seeking the sweet release of death.
So, the Nats were up 7-1 on the Mets headed into the seventh inning last night, looking all set to even up the most important series of the season. Everything went to hell in a hurry, as three Nationals relievers conspired to surrender six walks and six runs in the inning. Perhaps Williams should have kept starter Jordan Zimmermann in for another inning, but he could hardly be blamed for his pen’s collective pants-crapping. At that point, even if the Nats went on to lose, Williams could have escaped shouldering too much of the blame.
But this is Matt Williams we’re talking about. Matt Williams isn’t just going to not do everything in his power to fuck up a baseball game. That brings us to the bottom of the ninth inning, which started with a Jayson Werth single. Down a run, Williams had his 2-3-4 hitters due up, and things were actually looking pretty good. Anthony Rendon—who has had a rough, injury-plagued season but played like an MVP in 2014 and is hitting .324 over his past 17 games—came up next with two hits on the night already and a chance to get a rally started.
Matt Williams made Rendon bunt, even keeping the bunt sign on with the count at 3-1 and everyone on the planet begging him to let Rendon hit. (Seriously, if you looked at Baseball Twitter at this point in time, you’d have thought Matt Williams was standing on the mound and tossing grenades into his own dugout.) Rendon, of course, put down a crappy bunt and Werth was forced out at second. The Nats went on to lose 8-7.
Afterwards, Williams told reporters that he had Rendon bunt because he was worried about the double play. There are plenty of smart articles savaging Williams that you can read today, but I’ll take Tom Verducci at SI, who undresses that logic in a paragraph:
In other words, Williams gave up an out from one of his best hitters who never bunts because he was worried about something that happens 12% of the time—that’s how often Familia actually gets a double play when one is in order (about the same as the MLB average of 11%). The odds were overwhelming against a double play happening, but Williams was petrified enough of that longshot to give up Rendon’s bat, even with the count overwhelmingly in his favor.
Then Williams got booed as he left his press conference. (The room where the Nats hold their press conferences is apparently features a place where fans can look in, which seems like a bad idea when Matt Williams is your manager.)
The Nationals will look to avoid getting swept by the Mets tonight at 7:05 p.m. Williams may want to just stay home for this one.